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NUJ sues to collect two-month bonus from Utusan

Wed 2011-Apr-13 @ +08 01:11:17 am

The journalists’ union has taken Utusan Malaysia to the Industrial Court for not paying out a two-month contractual bonus to staff, MalaysiaKini reports. It is the first of three industrial challenges to the company: in June the NUJ is expected to file a legal challenge over the collective agreement for Utusan staff, still deadlocked with two months left before it expires. Another suit will be taken by the NUJ over medical benefits.

The NUJ said Utusan Melayu Sdn Bhd, publishers of the newspaper, had in fact made profits on its day-to-day operations, justifying payment of the contractual bonus, although the company had reported losses of RM26mil after accounting for RM82mil in other expenses, such as depreciation and RM31mil in operating capital paid to four subsidiary companies.

FULL REPORT:

NUJ, Utusan enter triple-threat match
Malaysiakini on Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Joseph Sipalan

The National Union of Journalists today launched what is expected to be a string of court battles with Malay daily Utusan Malaysia for allegedly withholding benefits owed to its staff.

The union’s Utusan Malaysia branch filed its first challenge in the Industrial Court this morning, demanding that the paper uphold its end of the bargain in paying out two months’ contractual bonus to its staff.

Counsel M Ravindra, representing the union, said in his submissions before Industrial Court chairperson Susila Sithamparam that Utusan’s final accounts for 2009 are not applicable when it comes to employee welfare.

He said while Utusan Melayu Sdn Bhd, which publishes the paper, reported losses of RM26.2 million, the losses are overshadowed by other expenses worth some RM82 million.

Ravindra argued that the other expenses, which included depreciation (RM21.6 million), allowance for doubtful debts (RM29 million) and capital outflow to subsidiaries (RM31.4 million), should not have been considered when dealing with employee payouts as it does not reflect the company’s true performance.

“If (these expenses) are disregarded, it shows an operation/trading profit. The union is of the opinion that the company is not operating at a loss, but in fact running at a profit,” he said.
Capital outflow

Ravindra stressed that it is unfair to use the RM31.4 million capital outflow to four of Utusan Melayu’s subsidiaries as a reason for the company’s shortfall, as the money comprises a large chunk of Utusan Melayu’s operating expenditure and was not intended for use by the subsidiaries.

The four subsidiaries that received funding from Utusan Melayu’s operating capital are Utusan Print Corp Sdn Bhd (RM17.1 million), Utusan Publications and Distribution Sdn Bhd (RM3.4 million), Utusan Sight and Sound Sdn Bhd (RM5.5 million) and PT Sinar Media Advertising (RM5.4 million).

“These funds meant for Utusan Melayu were channelled to its subsidiaries to fund the operations of these subsidiaries. It is inequitable to deny bonuses for its staff when the staff of its subsidiaries get bonuses on borrowed money,” he said, adding that Utusan Melayu has the power to recover its capital outflow at any given time.

Utusan’s counsel, Zaikon Jaafar acknowledged that the company would appear to have run on a profit in 2009 if the other expenses were dropped from its accounts, but stressed that the expenses cannot be simply omitted.

“It has to be explained by the company that this is standard accounting practice, (and) that it (depreciation) must be taken into consideration for a certain period of time,” he said.

Zaikon also pointed out that while there is a provision for Utusan Melayu to recover the operating capital channelled to its four subsidiaries, the company was unable to recover the funds for that year.

“As the parent company, Utusan Melayu is obliged to provide funding to its subsidiaries. If the money was recoverable, we concede that the company would register a profit. But the money was not recoverable in 2009.

“Since there was no profit declared, the company was not in a capacity to pay the bonus of two months,” he said.
Unfair to deny dues

Speaking to journalists outside the court, Ravindra said it is unfair for the company to deny Utusan Malaysia staff their dues when it is more than willing to hand out money to its subsidiaries.

“This is a case of the step-children having a party, while the children rot at home,” he said.

The Industrial Court is expected to issue the two parties its written judgement within one month.

The Utusan branch union is expected to commence its second legal battle against the paper in June, over the long-standing collective agreement tussle.

It is understood that the union and management are still deadlocked over the new terms of their CA, despite just two months left before it expires.

The union is expected to also launch a third suit against Utusan over medical benefits for its journalists.

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One Comment
  1. nstman permalink
    Wed 2011-Apr-13 @ +08 04:57:18 am 04:57

    What do you expect of a paper which is the cheer leader of Umno and Perkasa.

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